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Health Care: Who’s Stalling, Who’s Making Preemptive Strikes, Who’s Paying the Price

Health Care: Who’s Stalling, Who’s Making Preemptive Strikes, Who’s Paying the Price

The federal government may be having a hard time passing health care reform, but states aren’t wasting any time with efforts to block its effects.

While President Obama takes health care reform back on the road again and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sends a warning to insurers that continuing to raise premiums will hurt the industry, states are working overtime to take matters into their own hands.

This week Virginia became the first state to enact a statute to amend state law in order to block the individual mandate included in the federal health care reform bills. Called “Health Insurance Coverage Not Required,” the amendment states that “No resident of this Commonwealth, regardless of whether he has or is eligible for health insurance coverage under any policy or program provided by or through his employer, or a plan sponsored by the Commonwealth or the federal government, shall be required to obtain or maintain a policy of individual insurance coverage. No provision of this title shall render a resident of this Commonwealth liable for any penalty, assessment, fee, or fine as a result of his failure to procure or obtain health insurance coverage.”

According to the National Council of State Legislators, individual members of at least 36 state legislatures are seeking to limit federal actions including single-payer provisions and individual mandates. In some states, the proposals include a proposed constitutional amendment by ballot question, in other states proposed bills would amend state law, not the state constitution. (See complete list of state legislation HERE.)

Oddly enough, the individual mandate to which Republicans are so vehemently opposed was originally a Republican proposal. During the Clinton Presidency, 20 Republicans introduced a bill requiring an individual mandate, and four of the co-sponsors of that bill are still members of the Senate today (Bennett, Bond, Grassley, Hatch).

Once trumpeted under the banner of “individual responsibility” and “the end of the free ride,” the same mandate is now called “unconstitutional” since Democrats have warmed up to it.

Can health care really be reformed in a state where insurers can no longer deny coverage for a pre-existing condition, but where people can still wait until they are sick to purchase insurance? Sounds like a prescription for failure.

The issue of federal versus states rights is a complicated one, as we’ve seen in recent years with medical marijuana laws, and previously with racial segregation and slavery. This will be yet another mess for the courts to clear up.

Last week, the President called on Congress to give health care reform a straight up or down vote, saying, “Every argument has been made. Everything there is to say about health care has been said and just about everybody has said it. So now is the time to make a decision about how to finally reform health care so that it works, not just for the insurance companies, but for America’s families and America’s businesses.”

Opponents in Congress are stalling for time… states are making their preemptive strikes… 14,000 people are losing their health coverage every day… still, we wait. Make no mistake about it. We will all pay the price.

By the way, March is Multiple Sclerosis Education & Awareness Month. Read all about it:

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57 comments

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12:19PM PDT on Mar 18, 2010

However, that's a great reason to institute regulations on an industry. The reason we got to this point is because of all the deregulation, especially under Reagan, H.W. Bush, and W. Bush that has amounted to corporate welfare and resulted in astronomical profits by the top levels of the corporations while not only failing to raise pay at lower levels in any similar way but even having jobs shipped overseas to cut the bottom line, even if it results in domestic unemployment.

With the right regulations implemented in the reforms, not only will it be possible to curtail this corporate greed, but it could also put them on the ropes to even fight for their own survival.

Given the choice, would an individual who needs insurance pick an expensive private carrier over a less expensive public option or even a competitively priced private one? The same would be true of an employer who needs to insure their employees; as the company would also have expense in paying a share of premiums, they would also go with a less expensive option.

These market forces of competition influencing prices could have a Darwinian effect on healthcare companies that try to remain greedy as they would lose business and possibly even fail completely as they lose their customers, and as with any business, if they lose the battle of competition because of failure to adapt, they certainly would deserve to fail.

Some forces can be greater than greed, so this is a winnable war.

10:41AM PDT on Mar 18, 2010

Once someone has become corrupt and greedy, it is highly unlikely that, given a wider base of customers, they are going to become less greedy. Greed begets greed. They will only become more obscenely wealthy.

8:58AM PDT on Mar 18, 2010

Steve,

By your statement, I'm curious as to how you would define Communism. You might be confusing it with Socialism, but even then, I'm not sure how that would be a negative thing as most countries around the world, including much of Europe, are socialized to various extents, and it's certainly not bad for them to care about their people.

To deny freedom of choice would be bad if there were no good options provided, but that's actually how it is now: people can choose between coverage they can't afford or no coverage at all; the reform will allow less expensive options and will even help with whatever expense there is, but one of the ways to make sure expense stays low is by ensuring that the risk pool is influenced by maximum possible enrollment; that's how insurance premiums work, and that's why group coverage is less expensive than individual coverage.

I'm also very curious as to how this would be illegal according to the Constitution. What amendment would it be that says or implies this?

Insurance companies have long been making a lot of money while providing little in return to the consumers. That is actually the point of the reform; minimizing the profits to ensure that we get a better product isn't going to make these companies any wealthier than they are now, but it will make sure more people have the coverage and that it is better and more affordable to all, even offering subsidies so people don't have to sacrifice to pay for it.

7:08PM PDT on Mar 17, 2010

Mandating health care is tantamount to being a communist country. it Denys the freedom of choice. It is illegal according to the Constitution. it would only force people who cannot afford it to buy(putting them on the streets ) or forcing them to go hungry to buy this coverage. That's just plain wrong no matter how you look at it.It also lines the pockets of the insurance companies,who make billions a year already. bu then, billions isn't enough is it? lets make it trillions by forcing those who cannot afford it to buy it anyway.

5:45PM PDT on Mar 16, 2010

Linda M: how can you say it is "free"? What about the taxes the people have to pay to have "free" health insurance? Have you never heard that nothing is ever totally free? The projections for this healthcare is over a trillion dollars. Who is going to pay this debt? All of us. Our taxes will go up and up and up..............................

3:07PM PDT on Mar 16, 2010

Thanks for the info!

6:24AM PDT on Mar 15, 2010

Do you not see that your "democratic system" has reached such a corrupt tangle that it is grinding to a halt. In an effort to frustrate progress your political antics have degenerated to an absolute farce.

7:31PM PDT on Mar 14, 2010

Judith,

I also know how greedy all these corporations can be, especially in this industry, but unless they intend to provoke an all-out revolt from not only private citizens, but even by the politicians who had helped the corporations to attain their power, I doubt they would risk being so manipulative with natural market tendencies.

Insurance premiums are so driven by demographics and risk pools that when the enrollment increases, if the premium stays the same or increases, the illegal price fixing would be so obvious that there would be no way to hide it, and even with healthcare money in their pockets, the politicians would have no choice but to take legal action.

This is also another reason why the Public Option is so important; with a low benchmark set by the Public Option, the insurance companies would have no choice but to drop their prices in order to compete. No individuals or companies looking to by coverage for their employees would want to do business with a company with expensive prices for their service when there are better prices available through other companies, just as with any line of business; the lowest bidder tends to win when there are competitive options available.

This is also why a single-payer option might not work as well, because even with a price set low, the lack of competition would prevent the cost from being properly adjusted to market conditions.

Done properly, this reform definitely could make prices more reasonable.

7:02PM PDT on Mar 14, 2010

Do NOT think for even a SECOND that being mandated to buy health insurance will bring the costs down. That is how it would be in a perfect world, but we are NOT in a perfect world. The insurance industry is greedy and having people mandated to buy insurance will only make them greedier.

10:57AM PDT on Mar 14, 2010

I am weary of obstructionist politics.

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